COLUMBIA — Ryan Howard knew the ball was well-struck, but he didn't think it had quite enough juice to get over the fence.
In the bottom of the second inning, the freshman third baseman turned on a first-pitch fastball from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee starter Brian Keller.
The hit had a low trajectory, not something immediately indicative of a no-doubter, but Howard hoped the ball would carry. It did, as the wind coming out of the south provided the push the hit needed to clear the left-field fence.
The homer was the first of Howard's Missouri career and the first run the Tigers scored in their 7-5 win Tuesday over the Panthers.
Howard rounded the bases and headed back to the dugout, where he was greeted by a big round of silence.
His teammates, in the common baseball tradition of lightly ribbing rookies, had bolted for the room separating the dugout and the stadium concourse where they store bats and cleats.
"I was like 'Oh, cool, guys,'" Howard said with a grin.
The congratulations would eventually come for Howard, who has proven to be one of the team's better young bats and a versatile — if at times error-prone — third baseman and shortstop.
The Tigers didn't have trouble getting base runners in the game, but the difficulty in completing rallies seen in last weekend's series with Tennessee showed up again. Missouri stranded 12 runners.
"I'm still frustrated with our offense," Missouri coach Tim Jamieson said. "We seem like we get innings set up, and we try to force things. (With) bases loaded or runners in scoring position, we had guys ducking out of the way of fastballs inside, not wanting to get hit by pitches.
"It seems like every time we set up an inning, we get a bad at bat somewhere in there. We swing at a ball out of the strike zone. We do something that keeps us from scoring runs."
But Missouri (10-9) had enough offense to support right-hander Griffin Goodrich, who threw seven innings and got the win. Goodrich was prone to catching too much of the plate and gave up eight hits overall.
However, he started throwing his off-speed pitches better as the game progressed and settled down, recording four consecutive strikeouts between the sixth and seventh innings.
"I kind of got mad at myself in between innings," Goodrich said. "I just decided enough is enough, and I needed to put these guys away and kind of help us put some zeros on the board. That way, we can get away from that team, because I feel like we're a lot better than that ballclub."
Austin Tribby and Breckin Williams pitched in relief of Goodrich, and Williams got the save for the Tigers.
Missouri finishes its midweek series with the Panthers with another 6 p.m. game Wednesday. Peter Fairbanks is scheduled to start for the Tigers.
Supervising editor is Erik Hall.